Maria Cantwell

Arctic National Wildlife Refuge - March 18, 2003

Maria Cantwell
March 18, 2003— U.S. Senate, Washington, DC
Congressional floor speech
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Mr. President, I rise today to express my support for protecting the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.

Protecting the coastal plain will benefit wildlife, the Gwich'in ("GWICH-inn") people and one of America's last great wilderness landscapes.

Proponents of drilling in the Arctic Refuge talk about reducing dependence on foreign energy supplies. I also support reducing our dependence on foreign energy. But the best way to meet this goal is to develop domestic natural gas resources, promote renewable energy technologies and reduce oil consumption through conservation measures.

Alaska is an important source of domestic energy. The North Slope has trillions of cubic feet of natural gas. We should develop those gas resources on federal lands, including the National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska (NPRA), which was set aside for development.

Mr. President, I am eager to work with Senator Stevens and Senator Murkowski and others to build a gas pipeline—to bring natural gas to market.

Building the pipeline and developing the NPRA, in an environmentally sound manner, will create jobs in Alaska, benefit local Native communities and strengthen our overall energy security.

We also need to develop renewable energy sources, including domestically-produced bio-fuels, and to foster energy efficiency technologies and other conservation measures.
These technologies can reduce our dependence on foreign oil sources. For example, automakers commonly use low-friction tires on new cars to help them comply with fuel economy standards. When fully phased in, better replacement tires would cut gasoline consumption of all U.S. vehicles by about three percent, saving our nation over five billion barrels of oil over the next 50 years, the same amount the United States Geological Survey says could be economically recovered from ANWR.
Through a balanced approach, we can demonstrate our commitment to wildlife conservation, while strengthening energy security.

However, this budget resolution does not provide for a balanced approach. Drilling in the Arctic would mark a major reversal in America's 100 year commitment to conservation. Most importantly, the resolution would violate our duty as responsible stewards of the Arctic Refuge and the National Wildlife Refuge System as a whole—which are among our most valuable national treasures.

During this debate, we must consider the people who, over the last 100 years, have worked to protect sensitive wildlife habitat, like the Arctic Refuge.

Last week marked the 100th anniversary of the establishment of the National Wildlife Refuge System by President Theodore Roosevelt at Pelican Island.

Through the work of countless Americans, the refuge system has grown to a system of over 500 refuges in every state.

Tens of thousands of refuge volunteers, several hundred "friends groups" and scores of partner organizations work closely with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to maintain the integrity of the refuge system.

In Washington state, local volunteers have worked to protect and enhance refuge lands at Willapa Bay, the Nisqually River, the Hanford Reach of the Columbia River and other locations.

Americans have worked to build the refuge system because of their love of wildlife and because of their trust in Congress that we would serve as stewards of these lands.

Unfortunately, this budget is a breach of trust and an assault on the integrity of the refuge system as a whole. This budget undermines the work of millions of Americans—including hunters, anglers, wildlife enthusiasts and others.

By voting for this amendment, we can protect the Arctic Refuge and fulfill our obligations as stewards of the National Wildlife Refuge System.